Working Smarter

Today's guest article is from Audrey Thomas, a "Lean Office" expert who coaches & speaks on how to manage massive amounts of email, stay ahead of projects and To Do Lists, and become more intentional and productive at work. According to Audrey,  "Every email is a decision waiting to be made."


5 Strategies to Get in Control of Your Inbox


The average individual sends/receives 125 emails a day. That's 600+ per week. No wonder companies are concerned with overloaded and at-capacity servers. Your email Inbox is one of the easiest places to have clutter in your office because only you and Mr. IT know what's hiding there.

Using Lean Office's 5S technique to better manage your email Inbox breaks down into these five steps.

  1. Sort: If your email management program offers a  "rules" feature, decide which emails can be presorted into folders so they don't even end up in your Inbox. Think about non-time sensitive emails such as HR notices, Professional Association newsletters, notifications from social media, and announcements from vendors such as airlines, hotels and department stores.

    You'll feel more in-control knowing that these items are no longer allowed to interrupt your focus with non-urgent business.

  2. Straighten: Set up a file folder structure that mirrors the project folders sitting on your desk. Filing an email and retrieving it later will be much easier if you've carefully chosen the proper name of your folders. Avoid creating too many file folders which will only dissuade you in the future from using them and encourages you to leave emails in your Inbox.

  3. Sweep: Once a week go through your Inbox and delete the emails that are no longer needed. It is estimated that 50% of read email can be deleted immediately.  If an email represents a future action, create a task for it (if you use Outlook), removing it from your Inbox. If it's something related to a future appointment, insert the email or drag it to your calendar.

  4. Standardize: For Outlook users, did you know you can color-code emails coming into your Inbox? You can even color code emails sent only to you (no one else who was cc'd or bcc'd on it). I recently met someone who even color codes the emails coming from her boss! Here's how to do that.
    • Highlight the new email without opening it.
    • Click on Tools > Organize
    • Click on "Using Colors" in the menu that opens up.
    • Assign a color.

  5. Sustain: Maintenance doesn't happen automatically. Giving your Inbox attention must occur on a regular basis. Allow yourself time each Friday afternoon to apply these 5S techniques to your Inbox.

It's such a great feeling returning to your office on Monday morning, knowing your Inbox isn't filled with unnecessary clutter.

Question: How do manage email so it doesn't decrease your sales productivity? Share your comments!


© Audrey Thomas. All rights reserved. To learn relevant best practices of productive sales managers AND to receive a free copy of Audrey’s Productivity Passport visit

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